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Inside the 22

European Rugby Review, NFL Moves and Autumn Internationals

The Heineken Champions Cup kicked off a couple of weeks ago and already there has been a fair few shock results and surprising performances. Leinster kicked off their defence of the trophy in group 1 with a huge win over Wasps. Despite the Wasps Team being studded with international players including All Black Lima Sopoanga and Springbok Willie Le Roux, they were unable to make a dent in the defence and could not handle the pace a precision of Leinster attack who ran in 8 unanswered tries.

This may not be the most surprising result of the opening rounds in group 1 as a week later Leinster travelled to Toulouse a tight game 28-27. Leinster are still favourites to retain the trophy but this shows there is a chink in the armour.

In Group 2 the big story so far was the fixture between Munster and last years Premiership finalists Exeter. 2 big packs went head to head and after 80 minutes of smashing into each other in wet conditions there was no separating the teams at 10-10.

Saracens have got off to a perfect start with 2 wins from 2. A bruising victory away at Glasgow followed by a home win against Lyon puts them top of the pool as they look likely to be challenging in the later stages again this year.

Like Saracens, Racing have also made a perfect start but it has not been an easy couple of weeks for the Paris club. The opening weekend saw them travel to Wales to play an in form Scarlets team. The French outfit managed to come away with a narrow 1 point win (14-13). A week later they made it look much easier with a convincing home win over Ulster who seem to be off the boil so far this season.

In the final pool it is a rise and fall story, the rise of Newcastle and the fall of Toulon. Toulon won 3 back to back championships between 2012 and 2015 but now seem to have fallen way below the level needed to compete. Toulon have long been the 'Galacticos' of rugby and still have a squad that most club teams would be jealous of including french captain Guilhem Guirado, Liam Messam, JP Pietersen, Jerome Kaino, Rhys Webb and many more. Despite the individual strength Toulon have it seems they are unable to pull a performance together. They currently sit bottom of Group 5 with 2 losses and are also hovering around the relegation places in the Top 14. I wonder if some of those big contracts include a relegation clause!

Newcastle on the other hand are flying in the cup. They became only the second team in Heineken Cup history to win away at the Stade Mayol with a dramatic 26-25 win. They followed this up with another french scalp at home.

It seems with the demise of Toulon and the mixed start from Leinster that the Champions Cup is as open as it has ever been. 9 out of the 20 games so far have finished within 7 points and there has already been 2 draws. I still believe that Saracens and Leinster are the favourites but wouldn't it be great to see Newcastle do well. It really depends on how they go domestically and what the club focuses on (probably the league).

Christian Wade announces NFL Move
The rumours were finally confirmed this week as Christian Wade announced that he would be leaving Wasps to pursue a career in American Football. Wade is the 3rd highest all time try scorer in the Premiership but incredibly (this was a surprise to me) only has 1 England cap. The fact that he has been overlooked for England surely contributed to his decision to leave Rugby. I personally do not know much about the intricacies of American Football but I get the feeling it is going to be tough for Wade to break into a new game. Having said that there are more and more Rugby players moving to the NFL and maybe he can follow the few that have seen success.
Christian Wade announces NFL Move

November Internationals
The November Internationals start on Saturday and I will be writing a full preview later this week. It looks at the moment that England will be scrapping a squad together with the number of injuries and suspensions. Especially in the back row. I will go into more details in my next Blog later on this week.